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Pearl Jam: the long genesis of “Better Man”

The process that led to the release of the song “Better Man” of the Pearl Jam it was troubled and the producer tells it Brendan O'Brien to the podcaster Rick Beato.

The band, especially the frontman Eddie Vedder, was initially reluctant to record the song because it sounded too mainstream and pop compared to their usual material. Brendan O'Brien says in the chat that he played a significant role in convincing the band of the song's potential, adding a pump organ inspired by John Paul Jones of the Led Zeppelin.

Despite the changes and attempts to improve the melody, Vedder continued to have reservations. Meanwhile, the band “tested” the song in live performances. So when O'Brien recorded and mixed some performances at the Fox Theater in Atlanta, Vedder began to see the potential of “Better Man.” The band made a studio version initially intended for the album “Vs.” in 1993, but Vedder wasn't happy with the song's “big” tone.

Ultimately, Vedder and O'Brien worked together in Atlanta to create a more toned down and pensive version of the song, which would become the intro to the final version of the song. This version combined the band's heavier recording with the softer introduction, resulting in a balance that satisfied Vedder.

“Better Man” was eventually released on the album “Vitalogy” in 1994. Although never released as a single, the song became the album's biggest commercial success, reaching No. 1 on Billboard's Mainstream Rock chart and No. 13 on the Hot 100.

O'Brien acknowledged that Vedder's changes, which he had put a lot of effort into developing, had significantly improved the song, confirming that the decision to revise the song had been correct. “He was 100% right, and it's better than any other version we've done,” the producer said.